In the notes to Tower Theatre's production of Jump to Cow Heaven director Eddie Coleman admits to feeling initial doubts about the likeability of the three characters. This is unsurprising, given that the play revolves around the aftermath of Frank "The Mad Axeman" Mitchell's 1966 escape from Dartmoor Prison. However, it's hard to deny that during the first half, the plot moves along relatively slowly, as we are introduced to Mitchell (James Laing), his handler John (Johnathan Wober) and prostitute Lisa (Sarah Evans).
However, in the second half, this emphasis on character starts to pay dividends and the pace quickens. By the end, we come to see that all three characters are imprisoned in some way; whether their cell is an East End flat, a sordid life of vice or the whims of a pair of gangsters. The gradually developing romance between Lisa and Frank is a joy to behold. The final scenes, especially the "Christmas Party", Lisa's nightmare and the final farewell (which explains the title of the play) are extremely moving.
Naturally, the strongest performance comes from Laing. He ably captures the wild swings in Mitchell's behaviour, one moment talking about animals and the next making threats against all and sundry. Laing also reveals the child-like side of the convict, both in terms of his petulance and his trusting nature. However, we also get the feeling of someone who is serious about trying to reform. Evans portrays a woman caught between her fears of violence, and her love for a man who is clearly more honest that the people she works for. Wober also delivers solid support as a someone who's disgust at his job leads him to seek refuge in the bottle.
Jump to Cow Heaven isn't a laugh-a-minute farce. Instead, the humour is more subtle and darker. However, it is still worth seeing. As well as the director and the cast, credit must also go to Wendy Parry for her authentic recreation of a seedy gangster's flat in the Theatro Technis.
Review by Matthew Partridge for remotegoat (4 stars)
Photography by David Sprecher
Cast Frank : James Laing
Lisa : Sarah Evans
John : Jonathan Wober
with original music by Juan Iglesias
Director : Eddie Coleman
Set Design : Wendy Parry
Lighting Design : Peter Fennell
Costume Design : Julia Collier
Sound Design : Ruth Sullivan
Stage Manager : Anuśka Zaremba-Pike
ASMs : Lily Ann Coleman, Ella McKenzie
Lighting Operator : Pacifique Kimonyo
Sound Operator : Martin Brady
Set Creation & Construction : Wendy Parry, Phillip
Ley, Margaret Ley, Jude
Chalk, Roger Beaumont,
Keith Syrett, Michael
Bettell, Colin Guthrie,
and members of the
cast & crew
Publicity Manager : Jonathan Wober
James Laing has a long history in the theatre and is now about to embark on his first show with the Tower Theatre Company. After playing a police officer in his last two roles James was eager to cross the fine line between good and evil and the role of Frank is one he is relishing playing. Previous notable roles include Bill Sykes in Oliver, Mitch in A Streetcar Named Desire, Roland in Taking Steps, Bob in Pack of Lies and, most recently, Blunt in The Lying Kind. He hopes his performance doesn't upset any of the old gangsters that still hang around the Kray's manor as he lives in the area and would like to keep all his limbs.
This is Sarah Evans' Tower Theatre debut, finding herself playing another slightly promiscuous character after
her last role as the country-bred housekeeper's daughter Pearl, with SEDOS in House and Garden. Other recent roles
include Blackbird (Una), Spring Awakening (Wendla), and After Mrs Rochester (Ella). In Surrey Sarah founded
a theatre company - directing and choreographing musicals Fame and Footloose donating £3,000 to charity, and she has also done various short films and voice-overs. Sarah is delighted to be involved in such an exciting piece and would like to thank the cast and crew for being fabulous.
This is Jonathan Wober's tenth Tower production since joining in 2009, when he appeared as Sigmund in The Archbishop's Ceiling and Robert in Dangerous Corner. After playing a range of roles since then, including one of the Costazuela brothers in The Odd Couple, he spent much of 2012 taking part in both of the Tower's touring productions, playing Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream in Paris and various Dickensian characters in David Copperfield at the Minack in Cornwall.